Food

The Best Cheap Barbecue Restaurants Around DC

Ribs, sausage, pulled pork, brisket, and chicken at Texas Jack's. Photo by Scott Suchman

Black Hog BBQ

Multiple locations in Frederick and Ijamsville

Our favorite ribs in the area can be found at this trio of cheery barbecue houses. The St. Louis–cut racks are available two ways—dry (rubbed in brown sugar and spices) or wet (mopped in thick, sweet sauce). We can never decide, so spring for a half rack of each. Brisket is best shown off in a Baltimore-style sandwich with horseradish sauce and raw onion, or doused in zesty crimson sauce for the destination-worthy dish known as Arkansas beef.
Also good: Baked beans; potato salad.

Federalist Pig

The “Big Cheese,” smoky pork shoulder meets cheddar-jack. Photo by Scott Suchman

Adams Morgan, 1654 Columbia Rd.

Rob Sonderman, an alum of upscale kitchens including Bistro Bis, made his name running the show at DCity Smokehouse. In 2016, he left to open this box-sized Adams Morgan spot. If you were a DCity fan, you’ll recognize some of his all-star sandwiches (now with different names)—such as a pile-up of brisket, fried onions, and house-made pickles on buttery Texas toast. Sides (chipotle-scented green beans, mac and cheese with smoked cheddar) are another clue that a pedigreed chef is in the kitchen.

Also good: Chicken wings; Carolina on My Mind sandwich, with pulled pork and slaw.

 

Hill Country

The Hill Country dining room.

Penn Quarter, 410 Seventh St., NW

You might think of this Texas-style hall as big-box barbecue, complete with hokey menu names (Cool as a Cucumber Salad), a zillion staffers (who sometimes seem on autopilot), and a sprawling, multi-counter setup. What it lacks in personality, it makes up for with its stellar moist brisket, which is wondrously fatty, and its superb sausages, imported from Texas’s legendary Kreuz Market. Sides are feast-worthy—especially fluffy corn pudding and baked beans dotted with burnt ends.

Also good: Smoked chicken; ribs.

Sloppy Mama’s

1309 Fifth St., NE (Union Market)

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1942 11th St., NW (Solly’s Tavern)

Joe Neuman started as a history teacher, then ditched textbooks in favor of a food truck. These days, you’ll find his ’cue at a stall in Union Market and at Solly’s Tavern. A pig roast triggered Neuman’s career change, and his pulled pork is the best reason to visit. Mainly smoky, riddled with crispy bits, and never dry, it’s as good heaped on a brioche bun as it is alone with a splash of flame-red vinegar. His pickle-topped fried-chicken sandwich is a close second.

Also good: Pimiento cheese; cornbread.

Texas Jack’s Barbecue

Arlington, 2761 Washington Blvd.

We’d be happy dining at this cavernous Lyon Park place even if we didn’t eat meat. The sides—whether a warm salad of corn done up elote-style with cilantro and cotija, an eggy potato salad, or crispy Brussels sprouts tossed in lemon and Parmesan—are that tasty. Still, A-plus accoutrements aren’t enough to land a place on this list. Killer brisket, addictive smoked wings, and a tasty pulled-pork sandwich topped with Sriracha pickles are. Happy hour offers great deals, including a $6 burger and a plate of brisket-topped nachos.

Also good: Brisket-and-queso sandwich; kale salad.


Cheat Sheet

Drinks

Because sauces and sides such as baked beans can be plenty sugary, we tend to stay away from the ubiquitous sweet tea and instead grab a lager or IPA.

Condiments

Depending on the place, you’ll see molasses-tinted Kansas City sauce, tangy South Carolina mustard sauce, peppery Vinegar, and a few smoky, spicy creations of the restaurant’s own.

Pro Tip

Many vegetarians have long loved ’cue joints for the sides—mac and cheese, slaw, and potato salad (not collards or baked beans, though, which typically contain pork).

Desserts

Still hungry? Most places serve Southern-style sweets such as banana pudding or a pie or two.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Logan Circle.

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.